Jesus replied, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him.
I. FIDELITY TO CHRIST IS THE CONDITION OF THE DIVINE MANIFESTATION. This fidelity is both emotional and practical; it is displayed in the heart and in the life.
1. Love is the inward principle and motive. The personal nature of the Christian life is here strikingly exhibited. "If a man love me" -language this which bring the individual believer close to the living Christ. What a rebuke to all merely sacerdotal and ecclesiastical views of religion! If a man be spiritually enlightened and quickened, he will love Christ; both because Christ is in his own character and ministry deserving of the purest, strongest love our nature can offer, and also because "he first loved us" -because his goodness found its highest expression in devotion and in sacrifice.
2. Obedience is the evidence of love. Law and love do not always seem to harmonize; yet human relationships furnish examples of their combination. Obedience here takes the form of keeping the Master's word. This involves our
(1) becoming acquainted and familiar with his Word;
(2) retaining his Word in memory and often recalling it;
(3) reverencing his Word as in itself authoritative, and as in many ways binding especially upon us;
(4) obeying cheerfully and constantly the Word which is believed to be authoritative and Divine. The Christian's love is not sentimentality; it is a feeling which prompts to that obedience which, the relation of the Christian to Christ being considered, is the proper fruit of grateful affection.
II. THE DIVINE MANIFESTATION TO THE FAITHFUL TAKES THE FORMS OF LOVE AND FELLOWSHIP. It must not be forgotten that the love and kindness of God are presumed as preceding and as accounting for the dispositions and purposes above described. But whilst the Divine pity is the cause of the Christian's newness of heart and life, it is also true that the dispositions and habits which become the Christian are the condition of the enjoyment of those amazing privileges which Jesus here describes.
1. There is, then, a sense in which the Father's love is the reward of the affectionate obedience of Christ's people. The filial dutifulness and affection are approved, and the approval is manifested by the tender affection of the paternal heart.
2. In addition to, and indeed in proof of, this display of Divine love, there is assured Divine fellowship and indwelling. How different is this representation from the imaginations of human fancy, the expectations of human reason! Yet it is in the highest degree honorable to God, and it tends to inspire and to elevate man. The Christian welcomes his Maker, his Savior, as his Guest and Friend. - T.
Judas saith unto Him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us and not unto the world?
History, Prophecy, and Gospel.? — Disclosure, or revelation, is at least a double process. It consists in the presentation of an object of knowledge, and a mental reception of what is presented; a clear manifestation, and an object of this who is capable of apprehending it. Again, different objects of knowledge manifest or disclose themselves through diverse channels of apprehension. There is demonstration through the senses, as when we report, upon the authority of the sense of touch, that an object is hard, soft, smooth, or rough. There is also the declaration of the reason, as when we candidly consider the professions of a political party and decide upon their merits. And there is the revelation of the affections, as when we discern the bitterness of ingratitude or the sweetness of fidelity. Each kind of truth has its own channel and method of getting at the mind. Moreover, different truths or objects manifest themselves in various degrees, according to the capacity of the recipient. Not long ago I visited one of my colleagues in his mineralogical cabinet. Opening one of the drawers, I took in my hands two specimens with the remark, "These are duplicates." "Oh, no," was the reply, "they are quite different minerals." "How do you know that?" I said; "they look just alike." "No," was the response, "they look extremely unlike." To my sight the specimens were identical. To his critical vision, although casting the same rays of light upon his eye as upon mine, and presenting the same surface, they made an incomparably more definite revelation. There are said to be men employed in the wine vaults connected with the London docks who are able by taste not only to distinguish between a sherry, a claret, and a port, but also to tell the district in which a given wine was produced. It is even asserted that in many cases they can name the year of the vintage. To each of us is given the share of revelation which his capacities can apprehend. Men say, "Let us understand these so-called spiritual truths; let them be explained, demonstrated. Let us be convinced." The demand is fair; but the explanation, the demonstration, the conviction, must be to a capacity appropriate to this special kind of truth. A truth has not been revealed to us unless we have experienced the emotions which it is fitted to arouse. Any of us may read accounts of what is seen by the astronomers who are using the Lick telescope, but only they who have gazed through that splendid glass, to resolve nebulae into clusters of hitherto undistinguished worlds, have known experimentally, have personally received the revelation of these hitherto unknown worlds. To one who does not possess it already, words cannot convey experimental knowledge. They simply name our ideas. Any new knowledge which they seem to give is simply a rearrangement of ideas previously in the mind. Looking into the kaleidoscope, you see gaudy colours. Turn the kaleidoscope: something new has apparently entered it. In fact the same light is there as before, so are the same bright pieces of glass; but they now have a different arrangement, and therefore reflect and transmit the light in a different way. Words are simply the power to turn the kaleidoscope of our experiences. If we lack the experiences, words cannot give them. All you who are parents had many times heard the words describing parental feelings before you yourself became parents. You thought you knew their meaning; but in fact it was a totally new experience when your first helpless child was placed in your arms. Let us seek to apply all this to the Master's words. The Lord's manifestation becomes revelation to some and not to others, not because of differences in God, or in His manifestations, but because of differences in men. To expect that the result shall be to all of us a revelation, it is necessary to assure ourselves that we have that spiritual sense to which the Lord alluded in His reply to Judas. There must be not only an exhibition of the Divine self, there must also be the human capability of apprehending this. "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My words; and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." The heart is not the sensitive plate upon which the manifestations of the Father can become the visible image, until it is prepared by the chemistry of love. With such preparation, the Divine manifestation meets a human capacity to receive, and revelation is complete. You read in the Bible a passage as familiar to you as the alphabet. Hitherto it has seemed to contain very little meaning, and certainly has been no mediator between you and God. Now, however, it scintillates with new meaning, and seems weighty with unsuspected value. Every high-school scholar is familiar with the experiment by which the agency of the air in the phenomena of sound is proved. A silver bell is suspended upon a spiral spring in a glass globe. The bell is kept in vibration, and its sound is at first clearly heard. But now an air pump is set in motion beneath the globe. The impact of the bell's tiny tongue upon its sides goes on as before, yet as the air is exhausted the sound grows fainter and fainter, and at last completely dies away. The ocular manifestations are exactly as before, but the receptive medium of the air, without which sound cannot exist, is gone. In the Master's explanation, love is that medium, that condition of the heart, within which alone the manifestations of the Divine presence and of Divine truth can transmute themselves into revelation. The mysticism of this chapter is transcendent realism. There is a touch more delicate than touch, a vision more penetrating than vision, a hearing more acute than hearing. Jesus Christ was not a physical but a spiritual revelation. The physical senses of hundreds of men came into relation with the manifestations of Christ's physical existence, but, for lack of that "eighth sense," of love, discovered in him no divinity. Jesus Christ presents a body of spiritual facts adapted to human apprehension. He is not spiritual fact made discernible by physical faculty. The whole life of Christ, as written in the Scriptures, is the Holy Spirit's canvas. If we go to it sympathetically, the Spirit of God will glorify Himself in us. He will cause us to see and feel and know the facts of spiritual life. It is our right to have just as authentic evidence that the grace of God changes the heart, as stands in the records of the apostles. It is given us to have a spiritual insight for ourselves, and to be able to testify, not that there is an old chronicle which reports that a Pharisee of Tarsus was spiritually blind and somehow gained spiritual eyesight, but to testify that we were blind, yet now see. It is our privilege to know that the Spirit of Christ is the vital power of our spiritual nature, and from immediate knowledge to testify of its operation.
(History, Prophecy, and Gospel.)
I. A GREAT FACT: that Jesus Christ does reveal Himself to His people, but He does not unto the world. The fact is implied in the question, and there are many who have a Bible of experience — which teaches us that it is true.
1. The favoured people to whom Jesus Christ manifests Himself. "Us." It appears that they do not belong to the world. They are men who are not worldly in principle, in action, in conversation, in desires, in object, or in end.
2. Special seasons of manifestation. "When." These highly favoured men do not always see Jesus Christ alike. There are special times when God is pleased to reveal Himself to His people.(1) Times of duty. I never found a lazy or indifferent Christian have a manifestation of Jesus Christ; I never heard one who gave himself wholly to business talk much of spiritual manifestations. Those who do but little for Christ, Christ does but little for them in the way of special favours. The men who are the most zealous for their Master discern the most of His loving kindness, and enjoy His richest blessings.(2) In seasons of trial. Do not complain then; for it is in the time of trouble we see most of Jesus. Previous to trial you may generally expect a season of joy. But when the trial comes, then expect to have delight with it.
3. The wondrous display. Jesus manifests Himself. There are many manifestations of God to His children; but this is the most precious of all. He does this in different ways. You have seen Jesus with the eye of faith hanging on the cross. At other times you have had a manifestation of Christ in His gifts. Then, again, you will see Him in His triumph.
4. The effects of this manifestation.(1) Humility. "God has respect unto the humble, but the proud he knoweth afar off."(2) Happiness: for he must be happy who lives near to God.(3) Holiness. Some men profess a great deal; but do not believe any man unless you see that his deeds answer to what he says.
II. AN INTERESTING INQUIRY.
1. It was suggested by —(1) Ignorance. Judas thought: "If we see Him the world must see Him too.(2) Kindness. He wanted it all to be given to everybody. Ah! we never need be more benevolent than God.(3) Love to his Master. He wished Christ's dominion might be universal.(4) Admiration. "Who are we that we should have it?"
2. The answer. The question was not answered; for it was unanswerable. Is it not enough that He should do so?
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. WHAT BRINGS CHRIST AND WHAT CHRIST BRINGS. Note two significant changes in the form of expression.
1. He had formerly said, "If ye love Me;" now, as against Judas's complacent assumption, He says, "Anybody may have the vision if He observes the conditions."
2. Christ's "Word" is wider than "commandment." It includes all His sayings as in one vital unity and organic whole. We are not to go picking and choosing among them; they are one. And every word of Christ's, be it revelation or be it a promise, enshrines within itself a commandment.Note —
1. That Christ will show Himself to the loving heart.(1) Every act of obedience to any moral truth is rewarded by additional insight. Every act of submission to His will cleans the lenses of the telescope, and so the stars are brighter and larger, and nearer. As we climb the hill we get a wider view.(2) But in our relation to Him we have to do not with truths only, but with a Person. There is only one way to know people, that is, by loving them. They tell us that "love is blind." No! There are not such a clear pair of eyes anywhere as the eyes of love. Sympathy is the parent of insight into persons, as obedience is the parent of insight into duty.(3) Our loving obedience has not only an operation inwards upon us, but has an effect outwards upon Christ. Too commonly is it the case that even good Christian people have a far more realizing faith in the past work of Christ on earth than in the present work of Christ on themselves. They think the one a plain truth, and the other something like a metaphor, whereas the New Testament teaches us plainly that there is an actual supernatural communication of Christ, which leads day by day to a fuller knowledge, a larger possession, of a fuller Christ. And one piece of honest loving obedience is worth all the study and speculation of an unloving heart when the question is, "How are we to see Christ?"
2. Jesus shows Himself to the obedient heart in indissoluble union with the Father. Look at the majesty and, except upon one hypothesis, the insane presumption of such words as these: "If a man love Me My father will love him." As if identifying love to Christ with love to Himself. And look at that wondrous union, the consciousness of which speaks in "We will come." Think of a man saying that. Just as in heaven there is but one throne for God and the Lamb, so on earth there is but one coming of the Father in the Son. And this is the only belief that will keep this generation from despair and moral suicide. The world has learned half of that great verse, "No man hath seen God at any time, nor can see Him." If the world is not to go mad, if everything higher and nobler than the knowledge of material phenomena and their sequences is not to perish from the earth, the world must learn the next half, "The only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." Christ shows Himself in indissoluble union with the Father.
3. Christ shows Himself to the obedient love by a true coming.(1) That coming is not to be confounded either with mere Divine Omnipresence, nor of increased perception on our part of Christ's fulness. That great central Sun draws nearer and nearer to the planets that move about it, and, having once been in an almost infinitely distant horizon, approaches until planet and Sun unite.(2) That coming is a permanent residence. Very beautiful is it to notice that our Lord here employs that same sweet and significant word, "In My Father's house are many mansions." Yonder they dwell forever with God; here God in Christ forever dwells with the loving heart. It is a permanent abode so long as the conditions are fulfilled, but only so long. In the last hours of the Holy City a great voice said, "Let us depart hence;" and tomorrow the shrine was empty, and the day after it was in flames. Brethren, if we could keep the Christ in whom is God, remember it is by the act of loving obedience.
II. WHAT KEEPS AWAY CHRIST AND ALL HIS BLESSINGS (ver. 24)?
1. "He that loveth Me not, keepeth not My sayings." No love, no obedience. That is plainly true, because the heart of all the commandments is love, and where that is not, disobedience to their very spirit is. No power will lead men to Christ's yoke except the power of love. It was only the rising sunbeam that could draw music from the stony lips of Memnon, and it is only when Christ's love shines on our faces that we open our lips in praise, and move our hands in service. Those great rocking stones down in Cornwall stand unmoved by any tempest, but a child's finger, put at the right place, will set them vibrating. And so the heavy, hard, stony bulk of our hearts lies torpid and immovable until He lays His loving finger upon them, and then they rock at His will. That makes short work, does it not, of a great deal that calls itself Christianity? Reluctant, self-interested, constrained obedience is no obedience; outward acts of service, if the heart be wanting, are rubbish.
2. Disobedience to Christ is disobedience to God. Paul has to say, "So speak I, not the Lord." And you would not think a man a very sound or safe religious teacher who said to you to begin with, "Now, mind, everything that I say, God says." The personality of Jesus Christ is never, through all His utterances, so separated but that God speaks in Him: and, listening to His voice, we hear the absolute utterance of the uncreated and eternal wisdom.
3. Therefore follows the conclusion, which our Lord does not state, but leaves us to supply. What brings Him is the obedience of love; what repels Him is alienation and rebellion.Conclusion:
1. It is possible for men not to see Christ, though He stands there close before them.
2. Christ's showing of Himself to men is in no sense arbitrary. It is you that determines what you shall see. The door of your hearts is hinged to open from within, and if you do not open it it stops shut, and Christ stops outside.
3. You do not need to do anything to blind yourselves. Simple negation is fatal. "If a man love not;" that is all. The absence of love is your ruin.
4. You ask how can I get this love and obedience. There is only one answer. We know that we love Him when we know that He loves us; and we know He loves us when we see Him dying on His cross. So here is the ladder, that starts down in the miry clay of the horrible pit, and fastens its golden hooks on His throne. The first round is, behold the dying Christ and His love to me. The second is, let that love melt my heart into sweet responsive love. The third is, let my love mould my life into obedience. And then Christ, and God in Him, will give me a fuller knowledge and a deeper love, and make His dwelling with me. And then there is only one step left, and that will land us by the throne of God, and in the many mansions of the Father's house where we shall make our abodes with Him forever more.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
If a man love Me, he will keep My words.I. THE LOVE OF CHRIST WILL PRODUCE OBEDIENCE TO HIS WORDS. Because —
1. It presupposes a sense of the evil of sin and a desire for righteousness.
2. Love desires to please, and ever shrinks from grieving its object.
3. Love is essentially imitative. To love evil is to be debased; to love goodness is to be ennobled.
4. The affections exert a strong influence on the will. The strength of evil lies in the love of it, and so the strength of goodness.
II. WHOSOEVER LOVES AND OBEYS CHRIST WILL SECURE TO HIMSELF THE FATHER'S LOVE.
1. This is natural. There is no nearer passage to a parent's heart than to love his child.
2. God loves Christ in a manner and degree of which we can form no conception; and if you love Him, too, although your love may differ in manner it is the same in kind. So you are partakers of the Divine nature, which is love, and as God loves and delights in Himself, He will love and delight in you.
3. To love Christ is to be like Him, and for the same reason that God loves Christ will He love us. God loves us in our unholiness, and if He so loved us when we were enemies as to give His Son to die for us, how much more will He love us now we are His friends?
III. LOVE TO THE SON AND THE LOVE OF THE FATHER WILL RESULT IN THE INDWELLING OF BOTH. Love ever seeks to dwell with its object. The effect of its indwelling is —
1. Peace and satisfaction. God's presence constitutes the joy of heaven, and where He comes He brings heaven.
2. Hungerings and thirstings after righteousness and God. So sweet is God's love that appetite grows on what it feeds upon. The tasted drop begets a longing for the ocean.
3. Privilege and honour.
(F. J. Sharr.)1. There is nothing that a sincere Christian more desires than to keep the commandments of Christ. But human nature is human nature still; and lapses occur daily. The more anxious we are to stand in all the ordinances of the law blameless, the more we are convicted of failure; and failure at last makes us indifferent or despondent.
2. But may it not be that our ill success is due to misunderstanding the philosophy of the subject, and failure to appropriate the forces which would have surely pushed us on toward success? What, then, is this Divine energy, which, were it constantly in our hearts, would, with an authority that we should gladly recognize and yield to, command obedience? It is love to Christ.
I. LOVE IS A PASSION.
1. The strongest and most unconquerable forces in human nature are the passions. Like rivers in spring time, when the snows are melting on the mountains, and the clouds, driven by south winds, are emptying their waters upon the earth, they rise and swell, and overflow, submerging the whole nature.
2. God is the Parent of our passions: He begat love, and said, "It is the fulfilling of the law," i.e., the force out of which all obedience comes, just as we say, "That man's fortune is in his brains." Not that it is in dollars and cents actually there; but that within his brain are the forces that shall win his fortune.
3. Now, Christ, the greatest and wisest of all Teachers, knew the use of passion; for it was His own child. He created man with it. He knew, too, its potency; for, when a man was begotten, He supplied it to him in due measure and force. When He began to teach, He did not go to the conscience, and say, "Convict;" not to the reverential faculty, and say, "Adore;" nor to the reason, and say, "Argue, speculate." No: He went straight and at once to the great central force in nature — to that engine-like power in man, which has power not merely to propel itself, but to start all the long train of faculties that are dependent upon it into motion, and to say, "Love." Christ used it everywhere. In the case of the poor wicked woman, whose tears fell at His feet when He was at dinner with the Pharisee, He made it the measure of forgiveness. He made it the source of all obedience, as in our text. The Apostle John made it the test of regeneration. And, as if he would put it so that all eyes must see it, he wrote, "God is love."
II. LOVE REQUIRES A PERSON TO ELICIT IT.
1. Regarded as a sentiment, love is possible in respect to principles; but, regarded as a passion, it is possible only touching a person. A patriot does not lay down his life for liberty in the front rank of battle with the same feeling which fills a frontiersman when he dies fighting at the door of his log cabin in an heroic attempt to defend his wife and children from the murderous savages. We admire beauty, we reverence virtue, we praise modesty as elements of character; but never until the eyes behold them clothed in physical form do we love them. The qualities we admire, the woman we love.
2. Here, at this point, you see how love educates one in worthy directions. The man loves the woman, the woman the man, and each the qualities that the other represents. Each educates the other into a finer appreciation. They grow to be each more like the other. In this great love of assimilation going on between those who truly love, based on the apprehension of embodied virtues, I find the true source of that gratitude in my heart, that God took flesh and dwelt among us. Before Christ came, God was an abstraction, a collection of powers and principles, august and lovely, known to the reason, the conscience, the reverential faculties, but not to the warm, passionate side of human nature. And may God forgive us, who, having this living, breathing, personal Saviour revealed to us, love Him so little! "If ye love Me," said Christ: not the principles I represent, the truth I teach, My virtue, but "Me."
3. Is it not just at this point that we are able to see why religion is so cold and unexpressive? Our philosophy is at fault. We have put truth in front of Him who revealed it. We keep the principles, but lose the Person, of Christ. We have lost sight of the sun in our eager chase to capture the sunbeams.
4. Whence comes the charm of love and loving life? Is it not grouped around some person, as fragrance around a flower? Does it not come from the eye, the voice, the face, the form, of one beloved? Let the loved form be stricken, the voice silent and where is the charm of your love gone? It has gone out, with the personal life that expressed it; gone as the fragrance goes when you shake the leaves of the rose from their fastenings; gone back to God who gave it; and "your house is left unto you desolate." What is domestic life now? And what is religious life when the face and form of Jesus are gone from the chamber of your heart, but a cold, silent, embarrassed, constrained, and mournful state?
5. You hear people say that the absence of religious emotion in our churches and among the upper classes is due to their culture and refinement. It is not so. The argument proves too much. Love is not subject to such modification. Who would say that a cultivated person cannot love as intensely as a rude one? Must a young man marry an ignorant girl in order to be loved? This sublime passion has but one voice, one touch, the world over. Like some bird, true to its species, that inhabits every clime, its food, its plumage, its mode of birth and growth, its note, are everywhere the same.
III. THE POWER OF LOVE.
1. Obedience is the hardest of all things for those naturally inclined not to obey, to do. It is so with a child. And it is therefore necessary to bring the strongest possible motive to bear upon the child, that he may obey. You say, "My children love me, but they do not mind me. That motive does not make them obedient." But have you ever shown your child the connection between your heart and his wrong conduct? Have you made the little fellow understand how his behaviour hurts you? Have you sought to restrain him as you would a young dog, by the stamp of your foot and the glance of your eye? or as a parent should, by moral education? Some people appeal more to brute fear in their children than they do to human love.
2. Love is the strongest passion known to mortals. It is stronger than hate, for death checks its cry. Leaving the bloody body on the sand, it returns content to its kennel. But love is not checked, is not weakened by death. There is no power like love. It will carry heavier burdens, endure more buffeting, do more service, face more perils, live on under the sense of deepest shame, beyond any other emotion that the heart of man is able to feel.
(W. H. H. Murray.)I. THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE WHO OBEY CHRIST BECAUSE THEY SEE FOR THEMSELVES THAT HIS COMMANDMENTS ARE LOFTY AND GOOD. But this is not the same thing as obeying Christ.
1. If a man over whom you have no authority consults you about a piece of work, and does not take your advice, you may think him a dull or a lazy man, but not a disobedient one. There can be no obedience or disobedience where there is no authority. But if the man is your servant the case is different. He may think that his own way is better than yours, but he has to accept yours. You are his master. So if I recognize the authority of Christ, I shall obey Him before I recognize that His commandments are good and wise. His words are laws to be fulfilled, not ethical treatises the soundness of whose principles I find by study.
2. In the training of children we do not explain everything before we expect obedience. A child of six does not easily understand why he should take offensive medicine, or a child of ten why he should learn the Latin declensions. He has to do it first, and to discover the reasons afterwards. And so if a child be not disciplined to truthfulness, industry, etc., before he can see for himself the obligation of these virtues, he will never see that lying and indolence are vices. Compel him to be industrious and he will discover the obligations of industry.
3. And so if we obey Christ His commandments will shine in their own light. It is not by meditation but by practice that we see the beauty of His words.
II. THERE ARE OTHERS WHO ACCEPT CHRIST'S JUDGMENTS ON ALL MORAL QUESTIONS AGAINST THEIR OWN BECAUSE HE KNOWS SO MUCH MORE ABOUT RIGHTEOUSNESS THAN THEY DO. This is a great advance, but it is not enough. It is only faith in Christ's larger moral wisdom, not in His authority. It sometimes happens that a young man finds himself in a position in which it is hard for him to reconcile his personal interests with the claims of others. There are three or four courses open to him; one of them he dismisses as involving quite unnecessary sacrifice; he is perplexed about the rest. He consults an older man in whom he has perfect faith. His friend tells him that he is bound to take the course which he has dismissed from his mind. The young man cannot see why, but trusts his older friend's judgment rather than his own. This is a great proof of confidence, but it is not obedience. Christ does not come asking only for our confidence. He comes asserting authority.
III. WE MUST OBEY GOD BECAUSE WE OUGHT.
1. There is a light which lighteth every man, and however broken and obscured is a light from heaven. It is the revelation of the eternal law of righteousness, and whatever obedience I owe that law which is revealed to conscience I owe to God. That God is my Creator, is good, can punish, imposes on me many obligations; but if He were not my God, though I should be bound to be grateful to Him, or should fear Him, yet my conscience would determine the measure of my duty towards Him, and I might not find absolute obedience to be due to Him. But in that He is God, He has an authority over me that is unique and unlimited; and you might just as well ask, Why should I obey conscience? as, Why should I obey God? The only answer in each case is, I ought. There is nothing more to be said.
2. And in Christ God comes and claims my obedience. He is the eternal law of righteousness incarnate. He does not counsel; He commands.
IV. THIS POSITION IS CHALLENGED ON THE GROUND THAT EVEN IN CHRIST'S PRESENCE CONSCIENCE IS SUPREME. It is true that conscience must determine whether or not the claims of Christ are valid; but when conscience has once discovered that He is the personal revelation of the law of righteousness, it has discovered its Master. "But am I to obey Christ against the dictates of my own conscience?" Wait and see whether the conflict arises. It may happen that some of Christ's precepts impose duties which conscience has not discovered, for conscience is not omniscient, and often discovers duties when too late to discharge them. What would we now give if we had recognized filial objections, which are now so clear, thirty years ago? Christ enables us to anticipate experience. He does not command what conscience condemns; but in the early years of Christian life it is very commonly found that He commands many duties which as yet conscience does not enforce.
V. THE CLAIMS OF CHRIST PROVOKE RESENTMENT not only speculative criticism, but.
1. It is one thing to submit to an abstract law which conscience discovers, in this there is no humiliation; it is quite another thing to submit to the government of a Person. Nor is the claim resisted, because made by one who has "been made flesh" There are many who suppose they believe in God, but who refuse Him all authority over conduct. They regard Him as nothing more than an hypothesis to account for the universe. While He is nothing more than this the personal life is free; as soon as He claims authority the freedom seems lost.
2. But those to whom the great discovery of God in Christ has come, know that in His service there is perfect freedom. The rule of law is the real tyranny. The law can only command; but when Christ becomes Lord of conduct, He stands by us in every conflict; gives strength as well as defines duty. Christ becomes our Comrade, but yet He is our Ruler, and we are under the government of a higher Will than our own.
3. We have to obey God in Christ. But when the real secret of the Christian revelation is mastered, the obedience assumes an unique character. The fountains of our life are in Him. He is our higher, truer self. Not until we abide in Christ, and He in us, are we able to keep His commandments.
(R. W. Dale, LL. D.)
I. THE FATHER LOVES THOSE WHO LOVE HIS SON. How God should have loved those who hated Him — but that God should love us, so soon as through grace we come to love His Son — I as a father, you as parents, can easily understand. I love all that love my children. Do my child a good, and it has a double value than if it were done to myself; do my child an injury, and I know nothing in this world that would so soon lash and goad a father into madness. I have heard of good people who have been greatly distressed to know whether God loved them. The way to know that is just to see and know, "Am I loving Christ?" Can you appeal to Him who searches all your heart, and taking up the language of a man who, if he belied his Master, afterwards most bravely died for Him. "Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee?" Then, you can add, I know that God loves me; and if God loves me, happy am I, I can afford to dispense with the love of others. With my back at the throne of God I can defy the world. And even if they hate me who should love me, I am not miserable: with the sun in the sky, I can afford to dispense with the twinkling stars. The love of God is like the life of God, the covenant of grace standeth sure, and, "whom He loveth He loveth to the end."
II. IF WE LOVE CHRIST, GOD AND CHRIST WILL COME TO US. David was so offended at the cold-blooded murder of Amnon, that although he permitted Absalom to return to Jerusalem, for two years he would not see him. And when the sin of Eden was committed, God was so offended that He withdrew. Intercourse between God and man after the Fall was mainly continued through servants, until at length His Son came, and He came to reconcile them that were at enmity, and has done it. And I take that to be expressed in, "We will come unto Him." That implies that the offence has been removed; that the friendly visits are renewed. Having faith in Christ, we have peace with God. You may ask me how God and Christ come to us. I need not tell you, that they come in the Word, by daily grace, by the communications of the Spirit: so much so, that there are no lovers meet so often as Jesus and His bride; and there is no mother goes so often to her nursery, to see her children, as I believe our Father comes to visit His children upon earth. You see your neighbour once a day; you see your friend or brother once or twice a year; but if you are God's people, there are none you meet so often as God. He comes at the time of prayer; takes the mercy seat at the family worship; and into that closet where the good man goes, goes along with him. The believer finds every morning a letter from home on his table, in his Bible — a letter from His Father. He may be humble, poor, despised; but there is not a man on earth moves in such high society as the humblest of God's poor ones.
III. GOD AND CHRIST WILL ABIDE WITH US. What else will? Who else will? Not your parents, pastors, health, prosperity, family. A good man deprived of His all is left God, his Bible, grace, a throne of grace. Conclusion: Cultivate the love of Christ. It is a fire that will go out unless it is fed; it is a plant that will die unless it is cultivated. There are two sayings that should stir us up to this, "Seeing is believing;" "Out of sight out of mind." Why is it that in heaven they ever love? Because they ever see? Now, as you cannot see Christ, there is the more need that you should make up by faith for want of sight.
(T. Guthrie, D. D.)
(E. Hatch, D. D.)I. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN CHRIST AND HIS WORDS.
1. Christ and His words are both very fully made known to us. This is not always the case with the teachers of the race.(1) Sometimes we may have a great personality who has stirred his own and subsequent generations, but we have few or none of his words. His secret has died with him, as in the case of Pythagoras, Noah, Enoch, Abraham.(2) We may have great and noble words from a man, but we may know little of his personality — as in the case of Homer, Shakespeare, Plato, Isaiah, and many of: those prophets.(3) But in Christ both the personality and the words have been brought out into the clearest and fullest illumination. We should have felt unsatisfied unless we had heard the law of love from His own lips, and our wish is met. And with the words God has given us the life, as never a life was given, by those four, each different, yet each the same, a separate mirror to take in the side presented to it, but all disclosing in life-like harmony the one grand person — each so absorbed in his theme that he himself is forgotten.(4) The words of Christ, then, and Christ Himself, are both fully made known to us. The gospel has its expression in His words, but its power and spirit are in His life. He is Himself "the Word made flesh" — the greatest utterance in the greatest person.
2. There is a perfect harmony between Christ and His words.(1) He and His words are in agreement, else they could not co-exist and coalesce as He says they must do. This is not always the case with a man and His words.(a) Sometimes we can love and esteem a man, and yet his words carry neither conviction to the understanding nor moving power to the soul.(b) Or, we may admire the words, but we cannot love the man. It is with pain that we turn from the words of Bacon to his life, and from the scorn of worldly ambition by the author of the "Night Thoughts" to his eager pursuit of it in courtly circles. One of the most melancholy contrasts is between the words of the wisest of men and the exemplification which he himself gave of wisdom. How different when we come to Christ! Our deepest moral nature sets the seal of approval on His words. "Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into Thy lips." When He inculcates humility, He Himself "is among the disciples as one that serveth." When He speaks of purity, "He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth." When He urges the law of kindness, "He goes about doing good."(2) While the words and life are in harmony, yet the life is greater than the words. A man should always be more than his expression. We feel that whatever some men may say or do, they are capable of something above it. This is preeminently true of Jesus. This superiority of the person to the words of Christ is not destructive of harmony; it is the highest reach of it. In all things that perfectly agree there must be a great and a greater, in some such way as God agrees with His universe, which is His expression of Himself, while yet He remains an infinity behind it. It is one of the most important steps a man can take in his spiritual history when he passes from listening to the sayings to looking up into the face of Christ, and learns that the words are only rays from the countenance of the "Eternal Life," the natural breathings from Him who is "the Word made flesh." "Now we believe, not because of thy saying, but because we ourselves know that this is indeed the Christ."
II. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN LOVING CHRIST AND KEEPING HIS WORDS. Note —
1. The central truth of Christian doctrine, viz., that there must be a change of heart before there is a change of life. Christ is the lawgiver of God's world, and before we can obey His laws we must be on terms of amity with Himself. God's friendship must come before God's service. Now, it is frequently taught — that there must be service before there can be friendship, and that peace can only be purchased by obedience. But who can do anything that will bear the look of service in a spiritual sense until the heart is in it? Love to Him, however, can face every duty, dare every danger, endure every sacrifice, when it sees His self-sacrifice to save him from the most terrible of all evils, exclusion from the favour and life of the God. Less than this cannot explain either the Epistles or Gospels, neither can it, in the last extremity, bear the weight of what Christ requires of those who own His allegiance.
2. The Christian philosophy of morality.(1) The superiority of the morality of Christianity, candid men who profess to stand outside generally admit. But what is often overlooked is that this superiority does not consist so much in its details as in its central principle of action. There is no system but Christianity that has gathered all the grand motives to morality round a person, and made the strength and essence of them spring from love to Him.(2) There would be a fatal objection to this if Christ were less than God. For then His claim of implicit obedience would be impious, and if He had done less for man than save him from the lowest depth, He could not require all his nature to be given up to Him. Here, again, the morality of the gospel is seen to be closely connected with its doctrines. The Divinity of Christ forbids the charge of assumption on His part, and His atonement prevents the feeling that there is over-exaction from us. This view makes Christian morality and doctrine cohere; and those men who speak of detaching the gospel morality from the gospel doctrine are as rational as the men who would pluck a blossom from a tree and think to have it come to fruit.Conclusion: There are only three conceivable ways in which morality can be thought of as springing up in man.
1. By instinct. But how feeble, fluctuating, contradictory, this is when left to itself; and if it were perfect, morality by instinct would be morality mechanical.
2. By reason. But reason can never furnish sufficient motive power; it becomes weakest when passion is strongest. Hence reason, in morality, is much more a thing for the philosopher in his closet than for the mass of men in the struggle and strain of life.
3. By love, and love going forth to a person. It is this way that Christianity has chosen.
(J. Ker, D. D.)
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